Diabetic Foot Wounds

In this Article

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat infected foot wounds in people who have diabetes. During these treatments, you breathe pressurized oxygen while you lie inside a clear plastic tube. The extra oxygen helps your body repair damaged tissues and fight the infection. Each treatment can take up to 2 hours. Side effects from the treatment are rare.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric [hahy-per-bar-ik] oxygen therapy is a treatment for many kinds of illnesses and injuries. During this treatment, you breathe pure oxygen in a special chamber where the air pressure is two or three times higher than normal. This lets your lungs take in more oxygen than they normally can. The extra oxygen helps your body heal and fight infection.

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually considered safe and side effects are rare. However, there are some risks associated with the high air pressure used. These risks include:

  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Collapsed lung
  • Temporary nearsightedness (not being able to clearly see things that are far away). This usually goes away in a few days or weeks.

Another risk of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is seizure caused by having too much oxygen in your body.

What are the benefits?

High blood sugar caused by diabetes can hurt your feet in several ways. It can damage the nerves in your feet, so you might not notice an injury. It also decreases the blood flow to your feet, so wounds don’t heal as fast and can become infected more easily.

If you have a wound on your foot that is infected or isn’t healing, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help. The extra oxygen makes it easier for your body to repair damaged tissues and fight infection. 

How do I prepare?

You should not drink any alcohol within 8 hours of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Because oxygen can cause a fire if there is a spark, you should never bring a lighter or any device with a battery in it into the hyperbaric oxygen treatment area.

Do not use skin care products with petroleum jelly before treatment. They are also a fire hazard around oxygen.

How is it done or administered?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy usually is given at a special outpatient clinic. You will lie on a table inside a long clear plastic tube. The tube will be sealed and filled with pressurized oxygen. You might feel popping or fullness in your ears, similar to the way you feel taking off in an airplane. If this happens, it can help to swallow or yawn.

The clinic staff can see and hear you during your treatment and you can talk to them. You should try to relax and breathe normally. Your treatment might take up to 2 hours. Then the tube will be slowly depressurized. You might feel tired or lightheaded afterwards. This should go away soon.

When will I know the results?

You may need several treatment sessions with hyperbaric oxygen to help heal your diabetic foot wound.

What are follow-up requirements and options?

You should keep all of your appointments for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Each treatment builds on the one before to help you get better.

It is also important to take pressure off the area of the wound and keep the dressing on.

You should test your blood sugar regularly and work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar levels.

Stopping smoking increases blood flow and can also help heal your foot wound.

What should I expect during recovery?

After a hyperbaric oxygen treatment, you should:

  • Get plenty of rest for the next 24 hours.
  • Drink lots of fluids; avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and colas.
  • Avoid taking hot showers or tub baths for 24 hours.
  • Do not participate in any strenuous activities for 48 hours.
  • Do not fly in any private or commercial aircraft for at least 24 hours